An adventurous girl cooks, eats and explores in Europe.
After hours of traveling, we finally arrived back at the Brussels airport. We planned to take the bus into the Midi Train Station and our hotel was supposed to be just across from there. Getting tickets for the bus was hardly easy though. We tried to buy them from the automated machine but it froze up at the payment screen. It would not allow you to cancel the transaction or start over or process a payment or do anything. The same thing happened to the girls next to us, who I noticed had been at the machine for at least 5 minutes before we even started. We finally got it to go cancel and went off to the ticket booth we were told was a bit further down. Now with tickets, we waited for the bus and sat through the 45 minute drive. After getting off the bus we entered the station and started walking in what we thought was the direction of our hotel. Running into some security, we figured we would confirm. They told us we were at the wrong station and our hotel was actually at the other train station in the city (we did know there were two). Back out we headed, got in a cab and told him we were heading to the Radisson Blu. Confused, he looked at us and told us it was straight through the station. It was very nice of him to tell us instead of taking probably twice as long to drive around, so we thanked him and headed back in what we really hoped was the right direction. We walked all the way through the train station; we made it out the door and saw the sign for our hotel right across the street. This moment made the top five for happiest I’ve been to check in to a hotel room in my entire life.
I quickly got ready and with no plan for New Year’s Eve, we headed out and hoped for the best. We walked around the fish restaurant area, which was close to city center, but found everything there was booked full for the night. We didn’t want to go anywhere fancy so we hadn’t made a reservation, but it was a bit difficult to find something not that fancy and also open. We walked around a bit longer and saw the perfect place. It was a small, cozy Italian place with an old man rolling pizza dough in the entrance- clearly a good spot for us. We had a great dinner at Mamma Mia and were sent off with a shot of limoncello. From there we headed towards the city center. We wanted to go to a bar that we could easily get to the midnight fireworks show from. After stopping in a few that were too crowded, we again found just the right spot. The bar was called St. Nicholas and decorated with all kinds of St. Nick or Santa décor. The place also had all kinds of Christmas decorations up- wreaths and garland and angels all around. It was cozy; crowded but you had enough space and it was easy enough to get a drink (which was surprising as one bar tender was holding down the whole bar for much of the night). We had a fun time chatting and waiting for the fireworks. We even met an American couple who stopped in for a while. As midnight approached, the bar passed out hats and horns. There was of course a performance by some of the livelier men there the moment they got the horns- imagine giving out the same party blowers at a 5 year olds birthday and you’ve got these two pegged. Midnight hit and we ran out to see the fireworks.
It was a pretty show, but hard to see. The fireworks were done in the park by the Grand Palace which is not too far from city center. They did the show all very low though, so even though there were not extremely tall buildings, much of the show was covered up. We walked a little more and had a slightly better view for the end. We still enjoyed it. They did a great show with tons of sparkle and color. We headed home shortly after as we planned to get up early to see Bruges.
We woke up and got ready to head out, catching a train around 9:20 to Bruges. The countryside was gorgeous as we passed through on the train. It was lovely to see more of Belgium. We passed the stop for Ghent, which is another good day trip, but continued on to Bruges. We spent the day walking through the city, checking out some churches, shopping the Christmas markets and taking in the beautiful city sights. We ended our day with their temporary exhibit “Snow and Ice,” full of large, detailed ice sculptures inspired by Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. We caught the train back and got into Brussels around 6:30. All the traveling seemed to be catching up with us, so we spent the evening watching UP which happened to be on TV, and got Thai take out to eat in bed.
Wednesday, we woke up and got all packed up since we were heading home that evening. We checked out and checked our bags before heading off to see anything we had missed. We took the subway for the first time here, heading out to the Royal Palace and Parc de Bruxelles. Both were gorgeous. The park was huge and they did a great job with the landscaping to work with the views of the Palace and the Palais de la Nation on the other side, Belgium’s Parliament building.
From there we were off to Bruparck, the site of one of my sillier choices to see, Mini Europe. This was also were the Atomium was, a large oxygen molecule model with multiple levels and viewpoints built for the 1958 world fair. They had more around than I expected, with many restaurants, an ocean exhibit and a huge movie theater. We visited Mini Europe and the Atomium, with a break in between for lunch. It was then back to our hotel, to the bus and to the airport to catch our flight.
After a much smoother journey than our way into the city, we got on our flight fine and made it home around 10PM, with enough time to settle in and still get to bed pretty early.